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Community wellbeing links | Systems are key

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” — James Clear, author of Atomic Habits

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems…. Dramatic Pausecue sound FX of mind being blown! 

Okay, that is a helpful way to think about wellbeing.  

Wellbeing is systems. Your daily habits. Your approach to life. The things you do that support you being the person you want to be, and achieving the ongoing goals of your life journey. In Part 1 of this excellent podcast with Brené Brown, James Clear states it like this: “Every action you take is a vote for the kind of person you wish to become.” 

You can stop reading now and just listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of the podcast. Or you can continue reading to see how we can apply Clear’s insights to a student perspective. I will never know! :) 

Students at any age are especially ripe for establishing systems that help them on their journey of becoming the person they want to be. You likely had systems when your kids were babies (bath, book, bed anyone?). 

This is exactly why we have dedicated wellbeing time anchored in our timetable. Advising is a space for students to learn, develop and practise systems (guided by our 10 dimensions of wellbeing) that will support their Head, Heart and Humanity during their time at UCC and throughout their life. 

I am inspired by thinking of the Year 12s taking exams and am curious about the systems they may, or may not, have in place. How might you help guide your kids, whatever their age, to establish systems that support them becoming the kind of person they wish to be? 

Clear says: “Results of success are highly visible and shared…so we tend to over-value outcomes because the process is often hidden from view.” We celebrate a high mark, but do we celebrate the effort, or the process for getting that result? 

So, let’s assume a student’s goal is to get good marks. The goal is the easy part. The process for achieving that goal is what sets people apart. Systems need to support the identity-based question: “What kind of person do I want to be?” If the answer is some version of “a good student,” then what are the daily choices a “good student” makes? Let this question guide your choices.

James Clear recommends four components that will make behaviour more likely to occur and become a habit:

  • Cues for the goal must be OBVIOUS. He suggests an obvious cue would be for you to look at the space where the habit will be practised and pose this question: “What does this space encourage?” You and your children could consider this regarding their bedrooms. Does that space encourage sleep? Or you might consider the space where they study. What minor tweaks can be made to support the habit?
  • APPEALING is the next motivator for the habit. Clear’s example is to commit to the habit with a friend, so you actually show up. I have seen this work really well for students. Peers are important and can play a great role in motivation. It could be as simple as checking in with each other at a set time, or studying together, or making practice tests for each other. My recommendation would be setting up break time together. I’m also a huge fan of a healthy snack or movement break to make studying appealing. Ask your kids what would make the habit attractive for them.
  • SIMPLE comes next. Clear says, “Habits compound over time,” so keeping them simple to begin is best. Set a timer. Make it brief. Build the habit. Maybe at the beginning it is simply to remove the phone from the room and focus for 10–15 minutes. Over time, the feeling of success will reinforce the habit and it will grow. Celebrate the process.
  • SATISFYING is the feeling you want to have to reinforce the habit. Short term, it can be something external, like getting a sticker when you are learning your times tables. However, once you have been doing the habit for a while, the doing of the habit itself becomes the intrinsic (and long-lasting) reward because it is reinforcing the identity you want (“good student”). Timed and focused studying, connecting with peers, and good sleep habits are reinforcing “I am a good student.” 

These four components are equally as effective in breaking bad habits (procrastination, perhaps?); just do the opposite. 

You may have noticed that the system that reinforces being a “good student” is the same as being a good person. “Your life bends in the direction of your habits” (James Clear). Wellbeing and achievement work together. 

Be well,

Laurie Fraser
Coordinator, Student Wellbeing Programs